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Lalu support relief for Nitish

Patna, June 18: Lalu Prasad today extended the support of his 21-member RJD legislature party to the two JDU nominees for the Rajya Sabha — Pavan Varma and Ghulam Rasool Baliabi — rescuing Nitish Kumar from the biggest post-Lok Sabha poll crisis besetting his party and the government in Bihar.

After its debacle in the Lok Sabha polls, the JDU had virtually fallen in another spell of predicament with 15 of its MLAs revolting and fielding former MP Sabir Ali and real estate baron Anil Sharma as the candidates in the Rajya Sabha bypoll scheduled tomorrow against Varma and Baliabi. What had made the task of the “embattled” Nitish doubly difficult was rebel leader Gyanendra Singh Gyanu’s claim about his “group” enjoying the support of 30 to 35 MLAs and the 84-member BJP backing their move from behind the scene.

Despite enjoying the support of the Congress (four MLAs) and CPI (one MLA), the JDU would not have been able to get its candidates through to the portals of the Upper House had the RJD not extended support to them. Sensing the enormity of the crisis, Nitish appealed to his arch-rival Lalu on Saturday to support the JDU’s nominees against the BJP’s alleged conspiracy to destabilise Bihar.

Lalu, after keeping Nitish guessing for four days, eventually declared today his party’s support to the JDU nominees as part of his long-standing commitment to stop the communal forces from usurping majority in the Upper House.

“The communal forces have captured majority in the Lok Sabha by fuelling confusion among the voters. The Rajya Sabha is the only instrument left in the control of the secular and democratic forces. At this juncture, the RJD — upholding its commitment to secularism and social justice — has decided to support the JDU nominees,” Lalu said.

Besides announcing the support to the JDU nominees, Lalu used the occasion to call the secular forces and the masses at large to unite against the divisive forces, suggesting bigger realignment of the political forces against the BJP in Bihar.

Nitish, who had a section of his party members scorning the RJD’s initial support to the Jitan Ram Manjhi government, lost no time in reciprocating to Lalu’s gesture. “I congratulate the RJD and its chief Lalu Prasadji for helping us in exposing the conspiracy of the BJP to destabilise the Jitan Manjhi government and force premature Assembly polls in Bihar. I congratulate the Congress and the CPI, too, for showing solidarity in our collective battle against the BJP which stands exposed now,” Nitish said, adding that the BJP would find hard to save its face from now onwards.

The two powerful regional satraps — Lalu and Nitish — restrained themselves from speaking on if the RJD’s support to the JDU would snowball into an JDU-RJD alliance in the future. But sources in both the parties described the development as a “prelude” to broader realignment between the two socialist stalwarts fighting fiercely with each other for the past 20 years.

Even after Lalu’s decision, the rebels tried to put up a brave face. Gyanu said: “We have the support of adequate number of MLAs to vote in favour of Ali and Sharma. We shall participate in the polling process tomorrow.”

But three of the 15 JDU MLAs — Gajanand Munna Shahi, Dawood Ali and Renu Kushwaha — who had signed as proposers for the rebel nominees have returned to the JDU fold. The rebels suffered a further setback with Patna High Court today rejecting Kushwaha’s writ petition against the Assembly Speaker’s notice to her for indulging in anti-party activities.

The show of unity between Lalu and Nitish, however, should not lead one to conclude that the Rajya Sabha bypoll tomorrow would be a hassle-free affair. Sources said the JDU, RJD and even the Congress had their “share” of a few dissidents who might cross the floor tomorrow.

The BJP decided to support the rebel JDU candidates after a meeting of its MLAs. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Nand Kishore Yadav said the party would vote against the “immoral alliance between the JDU and RJD”.


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